Bakery Politics

So it has finally begun. Our dream, the thing we have been looking forward to during the past two years is now upon us. Most of our waking hours, as well as at least a part of our sleep is now dedicated towards thinking about the restaurant, and figuring out what tasks we must accomplish prior to opening. In effort to stay organized we have created detailed and extensive weekly "to do" lists that, dare I say it, put my Mom's yellow sticky note system to shame (sorry Mom).
Immediately after signing our lease and handing over our first and last months rent and security deposit, we began working on some of the not-so-fun but essential issues involved with opening a restaurant. Here in Portland, Oregon, that involves (in no particular order) filing for a federal tax ID and City of Portland business license, compiling and submitting the very thorough Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) application, and applying for a restaurant license and inspection schedule with the Multnomah County Environmental Health Department. The latter task is simple for us given that the space we are moving into was previously a licensed restaurant. Thus far we are not planning on making any major changes to the building which might necessitate the purchase of costly permits that would result in even more costly construction fees. In addition to completing the above not-so-exciting tasks, we have found our insurance provider, purchased various pieces of (mostly) used restaurant equipment, finalized our logo, come very close to finalizing our menus, acquired a new domain name for a forthcoming website, set up accounts for all of our utilities, and ordered what I and a good many other coffee geeks like myself consider to be the Cadillac of all espresso machines (much more on that in a later post). I'm sure I am forgetting to mention countless other things we have been keeping busy with, but one gets the idea: we're excited, and we're taking care of business...literally.
So far things have been going, dare I say it, relatively smoothly. This is both comforting and unnerving at the same time. It is pleasant to think that all of our hard work spent preparing for this time might actually be paying off, though I do sometimes get the feeling that this is simply the calm before the storm. Everywhere we go we seem to meet people who tell us that the closer we get to opening, the more we will begin to encounter little roadblocks.
For example, we experienced one such little "roadblock" a few days ago. For some time now we have assumed that we knew where we could source baked goods and pastries that we will serve at the cafe on a daily basis. Though baking is most certainly a passion of mine, there is no question that we will not have enough time to make good quality baked goods and pastries in addition to the many other duties we will have to accomplish each day. Thus we have known for some time now that we will have to source these items from somebody else, preferably from a quality local purveyor. Prior to contacting the bakery we assumed we could source for our day to day needs, I had no idea that having baked goods delivered daily to our space might in fact be a problem in itself. Much to our dismay, the bakery we had hoped to utilize is currently not taking any new accounts. A minor roadblock I assumed. Not so in fact. I discovered this dilemma very quickly after utilizing a favorite Google-maps technique of mine in order to locate all of the bakeries within a 10 mile radius of our cafe space. After looking at the map, it quickly became apparent that there simply weren't that many options when it came to local bakeries. No offense to the Wonder Bread outlet store and Winchell's doughnut shop (which was actually among my most favorite places to eat as a child...and oh how I still love their doughnut holes covered in rainbow sprinkles), but we are more interested in items such as cinnamon rolls, scones, and fresh baked croissants to pair alongside our coffee and breakfast fare (and don't worry if you're a doughnut "nut," we will still be serving delights for those who prefer their dough fried). A common response we received from more than a few bakeries we contacted was that they "don't deliver north of Mississippi Avenue. "Oh really?" I would reply, "Well thats too bad. Please know that there are businesses north of Mississippi that would like to serve your products." Since when did North Mississippi become the standard delivery boundary for so many local businesses? Surely there must be some bakeries out there who could help us?
Much to our delight, and after a very thorough search, we were able to locate two fantastic bakeries, one in NE Portland and another in SE who are willing to take us as a new account. When we had previously contacted both of these bakeries, we were told that they were not taking any new wholesale accounts, but after a brief description of our dilemma, as well as some minor pleading, each offered to help us out. And get this, one of them is even willing to deliver to us!!! It seems as though all is not lost after all. Contrary to what I was beginning to believe, there exists no imaginary force-field that separates N Mississippi from the rest of North Portland, and it looks as though we will in fact be able to offer fantastic fresh baked goods each and every morning we open. And while I hesitate to do any name dropping at the moment, let me say that the bakeries we hope to source serve up some of the finest goods that can be found in our fair city. In short, we really lucked out. If you don't believe me, just check out some of these photos.


Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

I feel your pain. As a North Portland resident I continually find people who think that N. Mississippi is synonymous with North Portland despite the fact it has more in common with NE than the rest of North Portland. Everything from lawn care to pet sitters refuse to come west of I-5. Do they think it's too dangerous? Kenton crime rates are less than those along Mississippi...

Tim D. Roth said...

I have a feeling that once you guys get up and running, the bakeries that turned you down will be wishing they hadn't. I think it is safe to say that anyone who knows you knows that you have impeccable taste and would only bring good fortune to anything you touch, but I guess not everyone has the great privilege of knowing you!

I love baked goods, and I'm sure your choices will become my new favorites.

Ali and Evan said...

Thanks for writing Matt. Though I did not grow up in North Portland, Ali and I are both Portland natives. Having lived in the neighborhood for more than two years now, we proudly proclaim our status as residents. I cant imagine living in another part of the city. We'll make sure other people's ideas about the neighborhood don't keep us from serving up some great food and coffee.

Anonymous said...

I just chanced upon a website where you can get all the forms for your business license, tax registration.... etc. It's www.businesslicenses.com. I really think you should look into it.

Good Luck!